India were pretty dominant throughout the world cup where Rohit Sharma was peeling off centuries after century, Virat Kohli scored 5 successive half-centuries, Shikhar Dhawan scored a match-winning century against Australia before being ruled out of the tournament and KL Rahul rediscovered himself opening the batting in the absence of Shikhar.
But other than the top order, there was a very minimal contribution from the middle order and the finishers. With India’s No 4 again in contention once Rahul started to open the innings, India never really found a settled middle order line up. For once when the top order failed miserably against NZ in the Semi-finals, the middle order was exposed and as it turned out they couldn’t bail India out of trouble.
As India slowly moves on from the world cup, the middle order conundrum is the first thing they will be eyeing to resolve. Today let’s look at the 5 players that can help India solve their middle-order misery and build a side which perhaps has no apparent weakness.
1. Manish Pandey
Manish Pandey. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
The first Indian player to score a century in the IPL, Indian cricket hasn’t managed to exactly get the best out of Manish Pandey.
He was touted as the next big thing along with Virat Kohli post the 2008 U19 World Cup. Due to a star-studded top order and the emergence of a few other young batsmen, Pandey didn’t get his chance. But when the opportunity arrived, he grabbed it with both hands scoring a match-winning hundred against Australia as India registered the highest successful run chase ever on Australian soil against the hosts.
Two poor back to back IPL seasons meant he was out of favour again for the national team but impressive performances against WI A has earned him another call up for India’s tour of WI. With a lot of experience on his side, he could be the one who solves India’s middle-order issue for a long time.
2. Shreyas Iyer
Shreyas Iyer of India. (Photo by Richard Huggard/Gallo Images/Getty Images)
He shot to limelight in IPL 2015 where he won the Best young emerging player award. Since then Shreyas’s career has been on a roller coaster, where he is picked for the national team and then again dropped and picked again.
With Gautam Gambhir struggling with the bat, Delhi Capitals (DC) turned to a 23-year-old Shreyas Iyer to take over the captaincy in the middle of an IPL Season. He did respond well but due to the poor start, DC finished at the bottom of the table. With Ponting and Ganguly joining hands in the coaching staff, it proved to be a wonderful decision for DC and especially for Shreyas.
He got to learn the nuances of captaincy by 2 of the greatest captains in cricketing history. What followed was the best season for DC in a long time and a very matured batting display by Shreyas himself carrying the DC middle-order batting on his own shoulder. With a call up for the India squad for Windies, Shreyas would be eagerly waiting to get an opportunity in the middle order and seal his spot once and for all.
3. Shubman Gill
Shubman Gill. (Photo Source: Twitter)
There has hardly been any U19 player ever who had the kind of hype that the young Shubhman Gill has got. Ever since he played in the 2018 U19 world cup, experts across the world believe that he is going to be another batting superstar for India. Gill finished as the highest run-scorer at the u19 world cup and was immediately picked by KKR for IPL 2018.
In an interview, Gill said that he has modelled his batting style watching Virat Kohli and those are big boots to fill. Shubhman has all the promise at this age much like Kohli had when he was 20. With clinching the Man of the Series award in the recently concluded tour of WI playing for India A, Gill has surely put his spoon in India’s middle-order plate.
For the time being the selectors have decided to put him on the side-lines and opted for more experienced players for the WI tour, but it isn’t long before he makes himself a regular in the Indian team and hopefully can fill Kohli’s shoes.
4. Rishabh Pant
Rishabh Pant. (photo by Alan Martin/Action Plus via Getty Images)
If someone of the calibre of Yuvraj Singh says that Rishabh Pant has the potential to be a better player than him than he must surely possess something special. Experts across the world believe that Rishabh has been blessed with a special talent and has the ability to hit the ball as cleanly as anyone in the game, but the only hindrance in his game is perhaps his temperament.
After a hammering all the bowling attacks in IPL 2018 and amassing 684 runs, Rishabh finally got a long rope in tests matches. He didn’t disappoint by scoring centuries in England and Australia in a calendar year and becoming the first Indian wicketkeeper to do so. It raised a few eyebrows when he wasn’t selected initially for India’s world cup squad, but due to a thumb injury to Shikhar Dhawan, he got his opportunity but didn’t make any notable performances in the tournament.
Being just 21 years old and a long career ahead of him, he is surely someone India needs to invest more in. Given that he is spending a lot of time with MS Dhoni and has the backing of Virat Kohli, he can surely be a match-winner in the middle over that India craves for right now.
5. Sanju Samson
Sanju Samson. (Photo Source: Instagram)
He was shot to limelight during IPL 2014 when Rahul Dravid said that he is one of the most talented young batsmen in India. There was a reason why Dravid has said that Sanju Samson had played few outstanding cameos for the Rajasthan Royals and that too under pressure.
Fast forward to 2019 and things haven’t quite panned out for Sanju as he would have liked. With the emergence of other young players like Rishabh Pant, Prithvi Shaw and Shubhman Gill have made it very difficult for him to get into contention for the Indian team.
His performances at the domestic level have been inconsistent but in the IPL he has been pretty consistent and dominating with the bat. Even Gautam Gambhir while choosing his team for the world cup had picket Sanju for the NO.4 spot. Given more chances, he can surely be a worthy inclusion in the Indian middle order.
~Written by Parth Parekh
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